ISLAMABAD -- Doctors treating a 14-year-old girl shot in the head by Islamist militants because she dared to advocate schooling for girls said Wednesday that they hoped that she would make a full recovery from her wounds after nightlong surgery to remove the bullet.
Pakistan rallied around the girl, Malala Yousafzai, who had become a national heroine in 2009 for defying the Pakistani Taliban's rule in the tourist district of Swat. Prayer vigils were held throughout the country, television channels gave blanket and emotional coverage to developments, and politicians across the spectrum denounced the shooting.
Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, arguably the nation's most powerful official, made an unusual trip to be at Malala's bedside, afterward issuing a statement whose final lines were spelled out in capital letters for emphasis. "WE REFUSE TO BOW BEFORE TERROR. WE WILL FIGHT, REGARDLESS OF THE COST, WE WILL PREVAIL, INSHA ALLAH [God willing]," the statement read.
Malala's attackers were unrepentant, however, with Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan issuing a detailed and chilling justification for the assault, which targeted the girl as she sat in a van waiting to be taken home from school Tuesday afternoon.
"It's a clear command of Shariah that any female that by any means plays [a] role in war against mujahideen [holy warriors] should be killed," the statement said. "Malala Yousafzai was playing a vital role in bucking up the emotions of Murtad [apostate] army and Government of Pakistan, and was inviting Muslims to hate mujahideen."
The statement cited passages from the Quran that the Taliban said justified the killing of children as well as women, and it said killing someone engaged in rebellion against Islamic law was not just a right, but "obligatory in Islam."
"If anyone thinks ... that Malala is targeted because of education, that's absolutely wrong, and a propaganda of [the] Media," the statement said. "Malala is targeted because of her pioneer role in preaching secularism and so-called enlightened moderation. And whom so ever will commit so in future too will be targeted again by TTP." Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan is the largest faction making up the Pakistani Taliban.
Malala gained fame as an 11-year-old in 2009, when she defied the Islamist militants who then governed her hometown, Mingora, first in a diary that became the basis for a series of reports on life under the Taliban carried by the British Broadcasting Corp.'s local Urdu language service, and then in television appearances in which she decried the Taliban efforts to limit schooling for girls.